Today we had home education group at our house again. It was a sunny day, hot enough for sunhats and suncream, and the children played in the garden all afternoon. It was really good to see our friends, including some who hadn’t been for a while. It was nice to have the old crowd back together (with the addition a very lovely baby boy who was born two weeks ago!) and the children had a brilliant time. We made the most of having two tuff spots, and set up one with pink pudding (strawberry angel delight) and one with gloop (cornflour and water), and an assortments of bowls, cups and utensils. I also added cake cases this time, and some of the children enjoyed making angel delight cakes. Between the two tuff spots and the play sink, the children were very happy and busy all afternoon.
Sometimes the best things in life are unplanned. This is certainly true of the best opportunities to play. This afternoon it started with the arrival of our second tuff spot – one just wasn’t enough for four children (and all their visiting friends!) As soon as it arrived, the children were very keen to unwrap it and take it into the garden. We put it next to the other one and started to discuss what we might play with, but it was time for the big three to go to Dramabuds so I told them they would have to wait until after supper. While they were out, Tiddler wanted to sit in it, but the plastic had got too hot so I put some water in. He really enjoyed sitting in it and just splashing with his legs, and for a while he didn’t really need anything else. When he seemed to have had enough of that, I suggested he added some rocks from our collection, and he split them between the two tuff spots to make two beaches. We collected some boats from the bath and I gave him some pots and bowls for tipping and pouring. He played with them for a while, then went inside to look for something else to add. He returned with a bowl of lettuce which he had found in the fridge, which was rather cheeky, but funny, so I let him have it and we decided it was seaweed!
When he had finished playing with his beaches, we combined the two into one tuff spot, and he and Supergirl played with playdough in the other one while I got the supper ready. When the others came back from Dramabuds we had supper, then I gave them a big bowl of strawberry angel delight in one of the tuff spots, with lots of spoons and other kitchen utensils. They had fun playing with it, making patterns, writing letters, drawing pictures and eating it! I think the big boys may have eaten most of it, so I gave them all a yoghurt afterwards to make sure they had enough pudding. Anyway, angel delight is a big hit and I’m sure we’ll be playing with it – and eating it again. I just won’t look too closely at the list of ingredients. After years of serving up organic fruit and yoghurt for pudding, with the occasional home-made apple crumble, it is a bit of a U-turn to be giving them angel delight. But they love it, and it certainly makes a good satisfying mess!
On Friday afternoon, we played with our new water beads. They arrived on Thursday and I soaked three packs overnight in two plastic tubs of water – red in the red tub, pink in the pink tub, and clear beads split between the two tubs. I had been going to add food colouring until I remembered we didn’t have any, so instead I added some peppermint essence which made the water smell lovely. I also made peppermint-scented ice cubes (hearts and fish.) When we were ready to play, I put the tubs with the water beads on to the Tuff Spot which was out in the garden, and the children helped me to add the ice cubes. They spent a little while exploring the textures of the beads and the ice in the tubs, before deciding to tip them all into the Tuff Spot. This made it easier for all four children to play with them at once. Tiddler spent quite a long time concentrating on carefully placing the water beads in the empty fish ice cube tray, and Rabbit did the same thing with the heart tray. Monkey was wearing his new tool belt, so used his hammer to explore and play with the beads. Luckily, he did this very gently as it is a real hammer. Tiddler then went to get his toy hammer and bashed the ice and beads as hard as he could! Owl made a picture of a helicopter by placing the beads on the studs of a Lego Duplo base board. After a while, Rabbit and Tiddler couldn’t resist getting into the Tuff Spot so I added quite a lot more (warm) water and this extended the play for a while longer. I enjoyed watching them play, some of the time together and some of the time alongside each other, and I think they all found it quite absorbing and calming. It’s a good addition to our water (and ice) play, which we do quite a lot, and I’m sure we’ll be getting the water beads out again very soon.
On Wednesday evening I read this post about an amazing mother’s creative plans for Valentine’s day play with her toddler twins, even while her heart is breaking for the loss of her baby daughter less than two weeks ago. If she can do it, then I have no excuse, so yesterday morning I made some ice cubes with red food colouring in the water, ready for some messy play in the afternoon. I couldn’t find my heart ice cube moulds, so it wasn’t quite as Valentine-themed as it might have been, but I don’t think the children minded having Hello Kitty, Lego and star ice cubes instead.
In the afternoon, we found some sparkly bits in our craft stash and put them in a large plastic crate with some water. (We are going to do it again this afternoon, this time with the sparkles frozen in the ice cubes which I think will be even more fun.) The children enjoyed pouring the water into the crate and then ran to get some bath toys (first just one boat, and later some more boats and a dolphin) to put in before adding the ice cubes and watching them melt and turn the water red.
There was lots of tipping and splashing and stirring, and a certain amount of inevitable ice cube eating. They loved playing with all the different shaped ice cubes, and also enjoyed the patterns left on the plate that was under the star ice cube tray in the freezer.
They were having so much fun that when the ice had all melted they wanted more, so I found some extra plain ice cubes in the freezer. And then Rabbit started rummaging in the freezer, looking for anything else she could put in, which is where it got a bit random. I let her put some frozen green beans in, which made her and Tiddler very happy, and they started eating them too. Rabbit still wanted more, so I let her put some raisins in, which they happily played with, fished out and ate. I was a little bit worried about them accidentally eating the sparkly bits though, so I think I’ll lay the ground rules today, and no food will be going in. And then another day, we might do it with everything edible, but not a mixture of both!
So that’s how to do Valentine’s day sensory play in a completely haphazard and random way. If you want a more sensible, organised version, read Jennie’s account of her twins enjoying their ice and water play, and even getting in and having a paddle. Although the same activity developed in different ways, in both cases it was good old messy child-led fun. Thank you Jennie for the inspiration.